News / Toronto

Tinder for policymakers: TV show sends Canadian politicians on blind ‘dates’

Political Blind Date sends Canadian politicians — who are at odds over issues such as marijuana or transit — out together to see if they can find common ground.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, a cycling enthusiast, and Doug Ford, former Toronto city councillor and 2018 mayoral candidate, take to the streets over the issue of transit in one of six episodes of new TV series, Political Blind Date.

TVO

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, a cycling enthusiast, and Doug Ford, former Toronto city councillor and 2018 mayoral candidate, take to the streets over the issue of transit in one of six episodes of new TV series, Political Blind Date.

OTTAWA—Blind dates are by definition risky, with so many looming questions, but a new TV show promises to raise the stakes even higher by hooking up opposing politicians who already disagree on a big public issue.

Political Blind Date debuts Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. on TVO and tvo.org . The six-episode first season features politicians from all levels of government who take each other on outings in an effort to bolster their perspective on a given issue.

The first episode matches Conservative MP Garnett Genuis and Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who travel to a weed dispensary and an industrial marijuana factory as they continuously bicker about the Trudeau government’s plan to legalize the drug.

Other episodes include the likes of Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo and Toronto city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.

Executive producer Tom Powers says the goal of the show is to knock politicians off their prepared scripts and to get them to grapple with issues in more honest ways.

TVO

Executive producer Tom Powers says the goal of the show is to knock politicians off their prepared scripts and to get them to grapple with issues in more honest ways.

Aside from weed legalization, the show tackles meaty subjects like safe injection sites, transit, public housing and the prison system.

The show is a co-production between Open Door Co. and Nomad Films. Executive producer and creator Tom Powers, of Open Door, said the inspiration for the show came from a series in British newspaper the Guardian, during that country’s 2015 election.

Powers joined Mark Johnston and Amanda Handy from Nomad Films, and then signed on with the Toronto Star and TVO as partners for the series.

“The challenge was to take that kernel of an idea and to build a television show around it,” Powers said.

He added that the goal of the show is to knock politicians off their prepared scripts and to get them to grapple with issues in more honest ways. The producers also wanted to see if the “dates” could uncover common ground, and chip away at the impression, possibly gleaned from heated debates on Parliament Hill, that politicians of different partisan stripes don’t get along.

“God forbid that they actually like each other,” Powers said with a laugh.

“I don’t know whether it’s a naïve goal of ours, but it’s something that I think, when the show works at its best, that’s what happens.”

Johnston, who directed the show, said he was particularly struck by how Singh and Ford connected. Their episode focuses on public transit, and includes a scene where Singh, an avid cyclist, attempts to get Ford, known for driving a super-sized SUV, to go on a bike ride through downtown streets.

“I guess I would call it a wonderful surprise; the surprise I was hoping for,” Johnston said.

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